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‘Sky is the limit’ for Wolves’ draft picks

By Andy Greder

St. Paul Pioneer Press

Dreams are more than 10 feet high for Timberwolves draft selections Zach LaVine and Glenn Robinson III.

UCLA’s LaVine, selected 13th, and Michigan’s Robinson, taken 40th, are each billed as high-flying, athletic wings that can make plays at the rim.

Yet during their introductory news conference Friday, Wolves General Manager Milt Newton said the young players can be much more than that.

Ability to shoot, create their own shot and defend are among the reasons the Wolves said they had LaVine as high as No. 7 on their draft board and Robinson in the mid-20s.

“Those are the things that attracted us to both players,” Newton said. “We feel like the sky is the limit for them.”

Both LaVine, 19, and Robinson, 20, mentioned point guard Ricky Rubio as the most-desired Wolves player they look forward to teaming with. The often pass-first point guard can give them clearance for takeoff.

At the NBA Draft Combine, Robinson and LaVine each had maximum vertical leaps measured at 41.5 inches, a tie for third-best. Meanwhile last season, Rubio was fourth in the NBA with 8.6 assists per game.

Alley-oops are already in thoughts for both rookies.

“I really look forward to that connection and I see a lot of highlights opportunities,” Robinson said.

LaVine added: “I know he’s going to be exciting to play with.”

(The only aspect that grounded things at the laudatory launch of LaVine and Robinson on Friday was conspicuous absence of any mention of Kevin Love. With the Wolves’ only all-star apparently wanting out of Minnesota, the Wolves’ distance from him is now institutional.)

The Wolves will move forward — likely without Love, who could be traded this offseason — and new players will have to step up.

The leader of that institution — President of Basketball Operations and coach Flip Saunders — will be tasked with their development.

Saunders cited his experience with teenagers Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury during his first sting on the Wolves sideline. Like with those young phenoms, the plan with LaVine and Robinson will be to parse out responsibilities and give them more if they can handle the original duties.

“Not to overpower them or give them too much responsibility where they feel like they are in quicksand,” Saunders said.

Both LaVine and Robinson had to make adjustments in college. LaVine started only one game during his freshman season at UCLA.

“You aren’t going to have a perfect season, so definitely coming out I wanted to prove stuff I could do,” said LaVine, who could be a combo point and shooting guard. “The main thing about me is I don’t like doubters, so I will try to prove them wrong.”

With injuries to teammates at Michigan, Robinson’s sophomore year was sometimes spent at power forward instead of his natural small forward spot.

“A lot of sacrifice,” Robinson said. “That’s what I did to help my team out.”

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.